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Monday, July 21, 2014

The Oldbie Project – Kim Anubis "Making Lemonade Out of Lemons" Part One


By DrFran Babcock

I can’t even remember how I ended up interviewing Kim Anubis, but without a doubt she was amongst the few oldbies I interviewed who are not only still in Second Life, but are still just as enthusiastic about it. As you will see, I didn’t have to work very hard at this interview. Thanks, Kim!

Interview Preparation

I am usually quite well prepared for my interviews with the oldbies. If I know I am going to meet with someone, I do my homework, and find out all I can about them. I had planned to do the same thing before interviewing Kim, but I had entered the meeting into my calendar using my time zone instead of that of Second Life, and ended up losing three hours of preparation. Although I would never do this again in an intentional way, I ended up learning about the remarkable Kim Anubis spontaneously.

Kim teleported me into the snow lands, where she has lived for most of her ten years. We spent time in front of a simple shack she had built, close to a road, and across the creek from more of the land. This land had remained pretty mountainous and rugged until Michael Linden and the moles came and placed a few bridges on it, thereby improving the accessibility.

The Questions

I like to ask all of the oldbies the same few questions, and then go on from there. Kim said so many interesting things, I kept having follow up questions:

SL Newser: How did you find out about Second Life™?

Kim Anubis:I did a Google search for online communities that might be hiring.  I was especially interested in Virtual Worlds. Search turned up There and SL. There was hiring, so I went and worked in house there for a while.  I came back to SL the next year.

SL Newser: What even made you think to look for that?

Kim Anubis: I had worked in online community management for a long time—I moderated big special events for a partner of AOL, that sort of thing.

Sl Newser: What are your earliest memories of Second Life™?

Kim Anubis: I logged in the first time and arrived at an island where there were tutorials and an actual live Linden, who was handing out useful notecards and offering assistance.  The customer service was stellar.

SL Newser: You come from a social or community network background, what were your thoughts on the SL experience.

Kim Anubis: I actually also worked on educational software back in the day, which added to my perspective, I think.Back then, Linden attention to customers and community was absolutely remarkable.  They used to collaborate with Residents like mad. I recall, before I joined, writing in to make a suggestion about the last names on offer—back when we had last names. I said that I didn't really like the names available, but my friends and I were interested in joining if we weren't going to be stuck with names we didn't like.  I made suggestions, including something Egyptian. As you can see (Anubis being the name of an Egyptian god), they jumped right on the suggestion.  They added three Egyptian-inspired last names right away. That was how it was back in 2004—very eager to work with anyone interested in SL.

Last names were really important back in the day. It was a great conversational icebreaker. Occasionally, someone would throw a party for everyone with their shared last name.

SL Newser: What kept you logging back in during the early days?

Kim Anubis: Bill Mysterio. I met him when we were both “power loitering” at the Sage market.  Back then,  there were these big open air flea markets for shopping, very different from the malls and boutiques that came later. Power loitering was a term I made up that day, I guess, when Bill first walked up and asked what I was doing.

Sage market, the big Show and Tell competitions, and the White Star Casino were the hot spots at the time -- most grouped dots on the map, at least at my usual time of day. At the top of the hour a Linden would announce events in a blue popup, and Show and Tell was one that happened every day. I won a prize at one of those my first week. With my thrilling three-prim build. It was my first build. Everyone was very kind to newbies back then. Bill had shown me how to stick a couple of prims together. He taught me a bit about scripts, and how all the parts of a build go together. He built many fine temples to Bill Mysterio. Pretty soon, he introduced me to Mae Best (Ed note: The avatar upon whose land RacerX first ran his snail races). Maesie dressed me up in some decent clothes; gave me sooo many pairs of shoes. She ran a trivia event at Montmartre just about every day.  That was fun, fun, fun.

Somewhere along the line, I ran into Racer. I think we met at a build contest. That was my first big SL romance. I even have pics of him as a human; I mean his AVATAR as a human. He was SO sweet. We would both spend all day off getting new clothes—shopping, building. Then he would pick me up for our date. He built a flying carriage pulled by a giant snail for dates. We would go to a wedding or a dance club, all dressed up in our fancy duds, making an entrance in the carriage, etc. Then we would sneak-build during the event. Like, w’d be dancing away, but you would notice a line of particles to the nearest parcel where we could rez. So, you know, we'd be knocking together a new chair or whatever during a wedding. We could not stop building. 

SL Newser: Are you still building?

Kim Anubis: Yep, I went on to start a company called The Magicians ( http://themagicians.us/ ), which serves educators, nonprofits, government agencies, and enterprises. I also wrote two "official guides,” how-to books about SL. http://www.amazon.com/Second-Life-Grid-Communication-Collaboration/dp/0470412917/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1405362063&sr=8-2&keywords=Kimberly+Rufer-Bach and http://www.amazon.com/Creating-Your-World-Official-Advanced/dp/0470171146/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405362106&sr=8-1&keywords=Kimberly+Rufer-Bach

It all goes back to Bill showing me how to modify a freebie Linden slot machine, and RacerX showing me how to add animations to an object, etc.

I did take a building class for a while, too, in world. I came here, I came from another Virtual World: There. Some of my friends in There came from Habbo UK, and some of us went to Habbo from Sissyfight.com. We migrated from world to world. When I first came to SL, I brought a bunch of friends, and we bought land together It’s part of the Forest of Kahruvel now.
We had a village in There, and we recreated our old village banner in SL—it’s hanging in front of my old cabin across the river here.

SL Newser: What are your funniest memories of the early days?

Kim Anubis: When Lordfly (Digeridoo) released the scripted “zombies” on the grid and my friends and I got dressed in our most badass outfits and armed ourselves heavily and coded up a Zombie Finder, and then we went hunting.

Oh, one time a real-life friend of mine came in to try SL and we went to one of the many Snow Crash themed clubs. He picked up a free object called Snow Crash, and it was a scroll attached to his hand.  He couldn't take it off.  He panicked, was logging in and out, we contacted Linden.  It was a couple weeks before it was removed.  For a while there, he thought he had been infected by Snow Crash, that it was part of the SL “game.”

I came to SL from There, where we had branded content, like Levi’s jeans and Nike shoes. There had a licensing deal of some sort; wasn't my area. I was in community management, moderating the forums etc. Anyway, I figured if SL was really the metaverse, and they wanted everyone using it, that would include corporations and universities, etc. I asked about it at a Town Hall once, when there was discussion of changing the permissions system; asked about something like how the corporations would take it if they had branded content in world, etc. I don’t recall anyone ever asking a question like that about SL before then, but I always assumed it.

Of course, a few months later, I was hired to build a bunch of objects for UC Davis Medical Center. That was my first client that paid US dollars for a build.  Before that, it was mostly stuff like custom waterfalls.  I built a lot of big waterfalls.

My first custom build, I stayed up all night to make a waterfall for a friend, who paid me a couple hundred Linden dollars, because I really, really wanted a pair of boots with—oh, the innovation—prim heels!

The Next Question

I have found that when I ask the following question, most of the time I get a short “yes” or “no” answer, but not much elaboration. I have come to accept that. However, Kim is not just like any other resident.

SL Newser: Did you fall in love in Second Life™?

Kim Anubis: Yes! A few times. I moved most of the way across the US once, to be with a man I met in world. It was so romantic.

SL Newser:  Who was your favorite Linden?

Kim Anubis: My favorite Linden was Glenn Linden! Yay Glenn! Glenn was in charge of the Solution Provider Program, and the Gold Solution Provider Program, and he was an editor of my second SL book. He was a good guy, hardworking guy, and funny.

SL Newser: What is the Solution Provider Program?

Kim Anubis: The Solution Provider program is something that no longer exists. Back when I and a few others were first working with Real Life organizations on projects in world, Linden Lab hired Glenn. Previously, he had worked at Apple as part of their developer program. The Lab wanted to offer official channels of communication and resources for people and companies doing projects for real-world organizations. The needs of a huge, complicated project are not quite the same as those of someone making consumer goods for sale in world. It was connected to the programs they had for educators, and fine Lindens like Pathfinder and Claudia who worked with them.

SL Newser: Why do you think the Lindens pulled their support away from education?

Kim Anubis: I have to tread really carefully when we talk about things in this area, because of nondisclosure agreements with the Lab. However, around the time they cut the programs, and cut the Lindens who ran them, they cut a lot of other things: shut down offices, let go a lot of staff. I think it was part of that. I think they were trying to tighten things up in a lot of ways.

SL Newser: What keeps you coming back to SL?

Kim Anubis: Well, business, of course, however. For example, the other day when I popped in and replied to your note, I was in world because my Real Life mom's avatar needed me to send a couple of copies of items. You know, a new Tiny hot tub, some more flappy wings.

My mom has been in SL since around…heck, 2005, I think. Both of my parents have accounts, and so do my brother and his wife.  In fact, my mom and sister in law are both, you will see, on the Magicians (Kim’s company) roster. My sister in law is a programmer.  My mom does events, Human Resources, and software testing.

When I started out in SL, I was living in a spare room at my brother and his wife's house. I was really, really ill at the time, and There had a massive layoff, me included. I would sit around online every waking hour. I couldn’t do much else.

SL Newser: Did you get teased by your family because of SL?

Kim Anubis: It was “that game” to my brother and his wife for a while, until I won a contest, a garden contest. Racer and I put together an entry. Anyway, they came up to my room and looked at the build, and then a day or two later came home with presents: Photoshop and. Poser. No more teasing after that. Well, you know, most of my family is pretty tired of hearing about SL.

My mom and I are the regular users, and well, there we are, talking about places and people that the rest of the family doesn't know. My Mom is not just a Tiny.  She is the Queen of Second Life Warthogs. She keeps me busy building her new toys and outfits. I mean, like, scuba gear and a mummy costume.  You can’t just buy those on Marketplace or anything, so Mom gets all her stuff custom.

Tinies ... I remember when Wynx (Whiplash) first came out with those. I was a bunny, and still am, sometimes. I would be working away on my UC Davis project—my first one—and I would have to turn back into a human to check scale on things.That was when I made my Tiny sneakers, and other Tiny clothes, furniture, flying teacup, etc. Which led to meeting Wynx!nWynx and I have worked together a lot since then.  She is so fun!

The Teen Grid

I asked Kim about Open Sim, and that triggered a memory:

Kim Anubis: It sort of reminds me of when my company was doing projects in the now departed SL Teen Grid. It was sort of like being stranded on a desert island with your few friends and whatever you packed in your inventory before you got stranded. You couldn't just transfer an animation or whatever when your work avatar needed it, and the region would usually be closed to the public while we were working. So there we would be, just us and occasionally the client would stop by with prims and prims and prims to use up, and whole regions to build on and it had to be entirely from scratch. You couldn't buy stuff in a shop, you know? I mean, as an adult avatar, cleared to work in TSL, I could not exchange inventory with normal teen grid avatars. So, everything from scratch, which was good preparation for working in a client’s closed OpenSim grid. We did needed special clearance to work in Teen SL. There was a formal background check by an outside company. There were a lot of rules and restrictions, made it quite a challenge.  But the Lab was very helpful. They went above and beyond to make sure things worked. Blue Linden saved our butts a few times.

SL Newser: Do you know any teens who made a successful transfer to the regular grid?

Kim Anubis: Daniel Voyager. There are others, too, but he’s most prominent, I think.


SL Newser: This is the last of the standard questions: What would you like the world to know about Second Life™?
Kim Anubis: It's still here. The media buzz died down, but things are still chugging along in SL.

SL2.0

Now there is another question that I have added to the questions I ask the oldbies, because of events that have taken place since SL11B.

SL Newser: What are your thoughts on SL 2.0?

Kim Anubis: They haven't told us much about it so far, so it’s really hard to predict what will happen. I mean, “…just like SL, but better,” okay? Is that going to come with LSL?  Probably not?  What language, then?  If they tell me, I can go learn it, or hire someone who does. I do suspect that SL2 might be stuffed full of HiFi DNA. Like, I could see Philip working away there as a Lab again, and then licensing the tech to LL…a tech company instead of a Virtual World company, for a while.

Well, when they announced the last big TOS change, I thought it meant they felt they needed the ability to take our stuff somewhere new, and I thought: HiFi—way too early. Maybe some of our stuff will be importable. They said they are not making all of our stuff backwards compatible. However, I think some things will still probably work; or could. I mean, probably no reason they couldn’t bring snapshots and textures over, for example. Anyway, at this point, there is so little information out of the Lab about what they are up to that it's difficult to speculate.

It does mean SL’s days are probably numbered. If a company introduces a new product that directly competes with their existing product, and even plans a nice easy migration path where you can bring your name and your friends list it’s pretty clear what will happen.

If SL 2.0 doesn't turn out to be vaporware (not likely, but not unheard of in tech, right?), and if it takes off they will offer incentives to get everyone to go.  Oh yah, I believe they plan to move L$ over, too? Anyway, eventually, if the new world takes off, I imagine reduced support for SL, until the new world eats up the people. Of course, there could be a curve thrown in, another world from somewhere else, etc.

Since the Oculus started getting buzz, VR is ‘sexy” again. It has been fun to watch everyone and their cat jumping on the bandwagon there, using it as an excuse to send out a press release.
“My number two pencil will eventually support Oculus!  Give me some press!”

I laughed, and thanked Kim for sharing so much of her time with me. I knew I would have to save all of the post-interview tour for the next article.

A remarkable person, who seems to roll with things, anticipate things, and make the very best out of whatever life hands her. I am glad she found Second Life™ during her explorations.

Kim Anubis’ Links:


DrFran Babcock

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